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Leaps and Bounds for Wind Energy

New developments for funding options and motor efficiency


New developments for funding options and motor efficiency.

Wind turbine

Considering wind but haven’t taken the plunge? New developments for funding options and motor efficiency are helping this renewable source to become more accessible.

  • If cost is a barrier, consider a power purchase agreement (PPAs). Over 23% of all wind power contracts in 2014 were signed by corporate purchasers and other groups, such as government agencies and universities, finds the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) in its U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report.

In total, more than 1,770 MW of wind PPAs have been signed. These include major companies such as Amazon, Dow Chemical, Google, IKEA, Mars, Microsoft, and Yahoo. In the non-profit and government sectors, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the U.S. Air Force, Cornell University, Ohio State University, and Oklahoma State University have all invested in wind energy.

  • An alternative magnetic alloy could also significantly drive down turbine costs by replacing traditional rare-earth permanent magnets.

Scientists at the DOE’s Ames Laboratory have demonstrated that cerium, an abundant rare earth element, retains its magnetic qualities at high temperatures. With a little help from cobalt, the material can take the place of dysprosium, a costly and scarce alloy. The cerium-enhanced alloy is at least 20-40% cheaper than the dysprosium-containing magnets.

Finding a comparable substitute material is key to reducing manufacturing reliance on dysprosium as the current demand for it outpaces mining and recycling sources for it, according to the Ames Lab.

  • As part of the Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative, which seeks to improve the competitiveness of American production of clean energy products, the Energy Department is supporting the development of wind turbines with blades longer than 60 meters (almost 200 feet). The larger turbine blades will be used in the implementation of new multi-megawatt wind turbines that will produce more energy than current systems.

The DOE notes that the development of taller turbines with longer blades could potentially harness another one million square miles of the U.S., which is about triple the amount of land that was accessible to solar technology in 2008.

For more on renewable energy, read The Next Generation of Wind to learn about vertical axis turbines.